NPR SFF Reader's Poll 2021

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Roxxsmom

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SFF readers' polls and recommendation lists always frustrated me because the same novels and authors come up over and over and over with very little change. Yes, nearly everyone knows Tolkien, Ursula K LeGuin, and Heinlein, and Asimov wrote enduring classics that are widely recommended. And the same forgotten masters (many of whom are women and people of color) remain, well, forgotten.

This year, they did something different with the npr poll. They restricted the list to books published in the last ten years, and they had just fifty titles but limited the list to just one book (or trilogy) per author recommended. This means the judges sometimes had to decide which work by a given author to list (when more than one got a lot of votes). The results were, imo, a more interesting and dynamic list with a much more diverse group of authors and type of story.

I'm familiar with many of the titles on this list. Some I loved and some I didn't. However, there are also a number of authors I haven't read yet or even heard of, and some of those look interesting. It's nice to see a reader poll that actually suggests something new!


Now if someone could come up with a poll of older classics that don't usually make the classics lists we'll be set!
 

Fiender

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I saw this earlier today! I know I'm a very finicky, picky reader, but I was still surprised to see several books on this list that had completely bounced off of me. More surprising though is the fact I've never heard of about half these books.

My 'stats', without singling out any specifics and starting debates on how could you not like such-and-such!?:
Bounced off: 12
Actually liked: 12
Never heard of: 23
Never got around to reading: 3
 
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Roxxsmom

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I don't think there will ever be a list where I like every single title. I could never get into the Foundation series, for instance, and that makes every traditional SFF recommendation list. As for Heinlein, I enjoyed some of his books but certainly not all. I don't deny that they are classics for a reason, but my tastes are what they are.

The thing is, though, if you are a SFF fan but you haven't read (or liked) Tolkien, Asimov, Heinlein etc., there is probably a reason for it. I have to admit I've gotten a bit tired over the years of being told over and over and over that I "must" read certain titles I have either already read or tried to read and simply didn't like in order to be well versed in the genre.

I'm definitely a picky reader too. I have fairly formed tastes when it comes to narrative style, world building, characterization and so on. But sometimes a story that falls outside my normal tastes appeals to me, and I can't always say why.

Anyway, I think it's cool to (finally) see a list of more recent work, created by a more diverse group of writers than the usual "dead white guy" heavy SFF reader poll lists. Some of those dead white guys number among my favorite authors, but I already know about them. If someone who reads SFF hasn't heard of Tolkien (or Rowling, for that matter), they've been deliberately hiding their head under a rock for their entire life! Sometimes I see a frantic desire on the part of older SFF to mold the tastes of the newer generations by forcing them to read the classics we loved as kids. But tastes do change across generations, and that's okay.

It's also nice to see a list to share when people in certain SFF groups (that should remain nameless) always suggest the same authors (Erikson, Abercrombie, Lawrence) of the grimdark persuasion when asked for recommendations by people who specifically ask for titles that aren't so pessimistic and dark (not there are some dark authors on the npr list, including Abercrombie, but there's a lot of diversity). There are plenty of non Eurocentric, non grimdark books being published nowadays.

I haven't loved every book I've already tried on the NPR 2021 list either, but I do see that they have merit and will likely appeal to some readers. And there are some titles there that are new to me that look like books I'd like to try.
 
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